Read these 35 Gadgets and Tools Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Sewing tips and hundreds of other topics.
Basting tape is thin double-sided tape used to temporarily hold fabric, zippers, and trims in place until they are permanently stitched in place. Basting tape allows you to re-position until you get everything in the right place. It holds more smoothly and consistently than pins. Basting tape is very useful in matching stripes and plaids.
Soap slivers work well for marking fabric. Only use plain soap that does not have added oils and moisturizers. The small bars of soap found in hotels work great. After you have used the soap until it is thin with sharp edges, let it dry out and use it for fabric marking. You can sharpen the edges with a razor blade or a nail file.
Tailor's chalk is a wax based marker. It comes in several colors, however, only white should be used in garment marking; the other colors are used for pattern and muslin marking. The wax markings will last longer than chalk and can be removed from some fabrics, with a warm iron. Be sure to test on a fabric scrap first.
Keep a package of needle threaders handy. Even if you are good at threading needles, there is always that difficult or thicker thread that is impossible to get through the eye of the needle. A needle threader can also be used to pull snags through to the wrong side of the fabric.
Small leather and plastic pads with adhesive backs are available for finger protection when hand sewing. These thimble pads work well for people that do not feel that they have enough control while wearing a thimble. You need to be consistent in how you push the needle during hand sewing to get proper placement of the pad.
A third hand, also referred to as a bird and clamp, is handy tool when you need that extra hand to hold something. This device is a spring-closed clip, attached to a table by a screw-fixed clamp. The clip anchors the fabric you are working with. The presser foot on your machine can also be used as a “third hand” to hold the fabric stable.
A seam gauge is a six inch ruler with a sliding marker to keep track of the exact measurement you are using. This small gauge is a quick and accurate measuring device. Most seam gauges are made out of a thin metal so they are easy to bend out of shape.
For accuracy, replace when it gets bent or the sliding marker gets loose.
Magnetic pin cushions are a wonderful accessory. This pin cushion makes picking up and putting pins down so much easier. You can just drop the pins on this large magnetic disc and they will stick. Just turn the pin cushion upside down and move over the table or floor to pick up your pins.
A rotary cutter looks like a pizza cutter. The round blade is razor sharp and can cut through many layers of fabric quickly and accurately. Rotary cutters come in several different sized blades. You must have a special cutting mat underneath the fabric when cutting. Rotary cutters work best on straight edges when used in conjunction with a ruler as a cutting guide.
Pattern weights can make cutting faster than pinning. Be careful when using weights; they are not as stable as pins. Weights can be purchased; however, household items can be used as weights. Cans of food make great weights. Small bottles or containers can be filled with rice or stones to make inexpensive weights.
The hump jumper is a handy little tool that will save much frustration when sewing over thick seams. It works as a lever, keeping the presser foot level with the height of the seam. Start by using it in back of the foot to raise it to the height of the seam. Next, bring it to the front to hold the foot up so it doesn't fall off the edge of the seam.
The tracing paper is placed between the fabric and pattern piece with the transfer color toward the fabric. A wheel is used to press down on the pattern marking to be transferred. Tracing paper comes in a variety of colors and the markings can be permanent. There are some newer tracing papers with removable markings.
There are special scissors for cutting buttonholes. These scissors have a set screw that prevents the blades from closing and cutting beyond the set length. These scissors work well for buttonholes set perpendicular to the fabric edge, but are difficult to use for buttonholes that are parallel to the fabric edge.
A thimble is a must for hand sewing. The thimble should fit snugly on the middle finger. There are a variety of types of thimbles. Metal thimbles come with closed ends or open ends, which are perfect for long fingernails. Quilters generally use leather thimbles, which can be made of soft, but sturdy leather or soft leather with a metal pad inset for pushing.
A good quality pair of shears is essential for sewing. Bent-handled shears are best because they allow the fabric to lie flat while you are cutting. Shears must be kept sharp; only use them for sewing. Most seamstresses prefer shears that are seven and eight inches in length.
Disappearing ink or air-erasable marking pens are great when you need to mark on the outside of the garment. These ink marks fade away with time. They will fade faster when it is hot and humid, so be careful that you don't lose your markings before you use them. The pen marks can be removed with water. Test for staining on a scrap of fabric.
Use stainless steel, fine point dressmaker pins for sewing. Longer pins with glass or plastic heads are easier to work with and easier to find when you drop them. Have a large quantity of pins and throw out any pin that is dull, bent, or has a burr. Damaged pins can snag and ruin fine fabrics. Test for burrs by pulling the pin along the edge of a fingernail or your front teeth.
Cardboard cutting boards are available for purchase at most fabric stores. These mats will protect the surface of your dining room table if you do not have a cutting table. They are also handy if you have to cut on the floor. These are not the cutting boards that are used for rotary cutters.
Pinking shears are a special shears with a notched or zigzag blade. They can be used to finish the fabric edges to prevent fraying. Never use these shears to cut out a pattern; it is too difficult to match up the pinked edges for accurate seams. The blades of pinking shears become dull much more frequently than straight edge shears and are expensive to have sharpened.